Library Rules

Johnson’s Little List of Library and Technology Laws last updated March 2019.

As far as I can tell, cynicism, pessimism, or hypocrisy have never served any teacher or student well. But a little clear-eyed honesty well-stated certainly can. Harry Truman said it best: “I don’t give them hell; I just tell them the truth and they think it’s hell.”

Well, it’s not really my intention to give anyone hell, but here are a few “truths” that may seem a bit curmudgeonly. I believe these are my own, but if anyone recognizes the same sentiment stated in a similar fashion by someone else, I’d like to know about it.

I am sure that the genome project will soon discover a curmudgeon gene, but having worked in libraries and with technology for over 30 years, I believe I have earned my right to be a bit cranky without the benefit of genetic predisposition.

Agree or disagree. Add to the list if you’d like using the comment section below. Share your law!

Oh, you might enjoy my biases, too.

Johnson’s Thoughts on Job Assignments: Give the worst jobs to the people who are unhappy anyway.

Johnson’s Library Mission: To get back the overdue readers, not the overdue books.

Johnson’s Observation About Public Speaking: You’re never bored when you are the one doing the talking.

Johnson’s Rule of Technology Reliability: It’s better to have one computer that works all the time than two computers that work 50% of the time.

Johnson’s Question About Fairness: If the cure only works for 80% should we withhold it out of fairness to the other 20%?

Johnson’s Observation About Office Climate: If the supervisor ain’t having fun, nobody’s having fun.

Johnson’s Rule of Sincerity: Compliments are always more sincere when accompanied by a box of doughnuts.

Johnson’s Rule on Coasting: Complacency is dangerous both in love and technology.

Johnson’s Rule of Creativity in the Workplace and Classroom: You can’t suppress it so you may as well channel it.

Johnson’s Disclaimer: Anything I’ve said that you don’t like, you’ve obviously misinterpreted.

Johnson’s Law of Literacy: If one can read but is not changed by reading, why bother?

Johnson’s Rule of Indispensability: If your job is eliminated, your boss should really regret it.

Johnson’s Rules for Spreading Manure: 1) Always check which way the wind is blowing 2) Never lick your finger to find out.

Johnson’s Technology Formula: T - t = 0 (Technology without training is a paperweight.)

Johnson’s Moral Imperative: Subversion in the creation of a good school is not a vice.

Johnson’s Rule of Technology Perspective: Every tech problem is a big tech problem to the person experiencing it.

Johnson’s Experience in Assigning Tasks: You may as well give unpleasant jobs to people who are already unhappy.

Johnson’s Secret of Technology Deployment: Make everything up as you go along without letting anyone else know that you’re doing so.

Johnson’s Observation about Progress: There is a subtle but important difference between moving and moving forward.

Johnson’s First Rule of Effective Advocacy: Don’t advocate for libraries; advocate for library users.

Johnson’s First Law of Technology Integration: Use techology to make your poor units better, not your great units worse.

Johnson’s Three Commandments of a Successful Library Program:

  • Thou shall develop shared ownership of the library and all it contains.
  • Thou shall have written annual objectives tied directly to school and curriculum goals and bend all thy efforts toward achieving them.
  • Thou shall take thy light out from under thy damn bushel and share with others all the wonders thou doest perform.

Johnson’s IT Department Mission Statement: Helping people solve problems with technology they didn’t have before there was technology.

Johnson’s Observation on Internet Resources: The one thing the Internet will never have that your library has - is you.

Johnson’s Kid Law of Cool Technologies: A technology is no longer cool once adults adopt it. Therefore, no adults will ever use a cool technology.

Johnson’s Law of Searching: It’s easier to find something than to find it again.

Johnson’s Caution on Collaboration: Treat collaboration, not as a goal, but as a means of achieving one.

Johnson’s Test Fairness Plan: Require no high school tests that the adults who insist on them can’t pass.

Johnson’s Worry about NCLB: We are creating good test takers who hate learning.

Johnson’s Reflection on Library Quality: The quality of the library is never greater than the quality of the librarian. (See also Allison’s corollary below.)

Johnson’s Common Sense Economy: It’s cheaper to buy a book for the library than it is to buy one for each classroom.

Johnson’s Observation on the School of Hard Knocks: I don’t mind learning from my mistakes. I just don’t want to earn a PhD.

Johnson’s Drill Bit Rule: You don’t buy a drill bit because you want a drill bit; you buy it because you want a hole. You don’t buy technology because you want technology; you buy it because you want a more effective school.

Johnson’s Observation on Multimedia Content: You can put all the pretty clothes on your dog you want, but he’s still a dog.

Johnson’s Rule of Technology Neutrality: Tools are neither good nor bad. The same hammer can both break windows and build cathedrals.

Johnson’s Policy Mantra: Technicians do not make policy. Technicians do not make policy. Technicians do not make policy.

Johnson’s Observation on Visitors: The number of students in the media center is in inverse proportion to importance of anyone visiting.

Johnson’s Philosophy on Implementing Large Technology Systems: I’d rather be optimistic than right.

Johnson’s Observation of Policy Making: Rules only work with the rational.

Johnson’s First Rule of Change: Change is inevitable - except in human nature.

Johnson’s Second Rule of Change: Change is good - you go first.

Johnson’s Third Rule of Change: The dinosaurs were pleased with themselves right up to the time the meteor hit.

Johnson’s Fourth Rule of Change: It’s better to be optimistic than right.

Johnson’s First Law of Effective Supervision: Hire people who don’t need to be supervised.

Johnson’s First Sign of Technology Literacy: Knowing when to use technology and when not to use technology.

Johnson’s Law of Network Capacity: You can’t be too thin, too rich or have too much bandwidth.

Johnson’s Law of Consultants: Go with the person, not the firm.

Johnson’s Rule of Research Projects: A project not worth doing, is not worth doing well.

Johnson’s First Law of Presentations: Show your audience pictures of happy, productive children and they will believe anything you tell them.

Johnson’s Second Law of Presentations: Audiences would rather see your face than your backside.

Johnson’s Third Law of Presentations: A misspelling in 48 point type is more noticeable than a misspelling in 12 point type.

Johnson’s Fourth Law of Presentations: PowerPoint doesn’t bore people. People bore people.

Johnson’s Rule of Technology Implementation: What technology first makes possible, it soon makes imperative.

Johnson’s Rule of Restructuring Education with Technology: Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part.

Johnson’s Law of Staff Development: We can no longer afford to only work with the living.

Johnson’s Antibiotic Law of Educational Change: If you can’t afford the whole cure, don’t even start it.

Johnson’s Law of Assessment: You’ll only get what you want if you can describe what you want.

Johnson’s Library Rule Rule: Never have more than three rules for your media center:

be doing something productive

be doing it in a way that allows others to be productive

be respectful of other people and their property.

Johnson’s Three Rules of Policy Writing: Never write a policy unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Never write a policy from scratch that you can borrow from someone else. Never write a policy that does not describe how it benefits your patrons.

Johnson’s Law of Taking Responsibility: Even when hiding feels better, don’t do it.

Johnson’s Law of Project Evaluation: Never evaluate a project during its first year of implementation.

Johnson’s Observation About the Importance of Teacher Quality: I’d rather my children had a great teacher with mediocre technology than a mediocre teacher with great technology.

Johnson’s Update of Aesop: The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on learning.

Johnson’s Homily on Beta Testing: The early worm gets eaten by the bird.

Johnson’s Technology Planning Rule: The stuff is not enough.

Johnson’s Relationship Advice to Children: Marry for wealth; repent in leisure.

Johnson’s Law of Stress Management: If you can’t find someone to pass the stress on to, you’re struck with it.

Collected from visitors to this site:

Roy’s Rule of 1.0: Don’t buy version 1 of anything. As we all know version 1.1 will be along next week. Roy Crotty (rcrotty (at) Roy says this is also true of relationships (don’t marry the first person you fall for) and recipes.

Butch’s Observation: The degree to which people take you seriously can be charted in a direct, but opposite, proportion to how seriously you take yourself. Take yourself too seriously and no one else will. Butch Wilson (bwilson@

Hughes’ First Law: Yes, there are stupid question, but don’t worry we won’t laugh as we answer them. In fact, we collect them, and the winner of the most stupid wins a new pair of Birkenstock clogs!

Hughes’ Second Law: We do not find any question unusual. How could we? We do not find coworkers with 17 rescue cats in a studio apt. and find a necktie goes fine with an old school acrylic Izod Lacoste crocodile cardigan, so how could we find your question unusual? Neal Hughes <nealmhughes@>

Wolin’s Law of Networking: If there’s a working jack on the wall, there’s a heavy cabinet in front of it. Susan Wolin <wolin135@>

Johnson’s Rule Completed:Sequencing (2) Machines.

1. If the lowest cycle time is at machine #1, then place to the left. 2. If the lowest cycle time is at machine #2, then place to the right. 3. If the lowest cycle time is a tie at machine #1, then lowest cycle time for machine #2 is placed to the left. Walker Cox (winkwalker7@ (I have no idea what this means. I hope it isn’t dirty. - Doug)

Singer on Scanners: The one (college) student who loves the scanner and always asks for help with it is scanning pictures of him/herself that make you start to stammer something about policy. Daniel Singer (DanielJSinger@

Luscre’s Law of Inverse Taxonomy Level vs. Amount of Copy & Paste: There is an inverse relationship between the taxonomy level of Cognitive Objectives and the amount of plagiarism: The more higher order thinking required, the less plagiarism. The lower the taxonomy level of the question(s), the higher the percentage of copy & paste versus original thought. Anthony A. Luscre (mo_luscre@

Miller’s Observation: If you don’t have the time to do it right the first time, you’d better have time to do it over. Becky Miller (becky_miller@

Lane’s Law: NEVER underestimate the importance of the RIGHT CLICK button…it’s there for a reason! Cindy Lane (lane.cindy@

Allison’s Adage: Old librarians never die; they just keep renewing. Allison (allisonalto@

Allison’s Librarian Riddle: Why did the librarian cross the reference? (To get to the other cite!) Allison (allisonalto@

Addendum to Johnson’s Reflection on Library Quality: “The quality of the library is never greater than the quality of the librarian” AND THE SUPPORT OF THE PRINCIPAL. Allison (allisonalto@

Allison’s Statistical Principles of Library Work:

Allison’s Theorem of Teaching Online Resources: The number of times you tell students they may not use Google for a particular assignment equals the number of students who will log onto Google immediately after your dazzling presentation to illustrate the use of expensive online subscriptions.

Corollary: Take the above number and square it to determine the number of students who will complain about not being able to use Google.

Allison’s Noise Level Axiom: The decibel level of a group of rowdy students is proportionate to the distance between them and the library media specialist.

Allison’s Noise Level Axiom II: The noise level in a library is in exact proportion to the ratio of how many students are doing research from computers over how many are using books. Allison (allisonalto@

Denis’s Observation: The lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. Denis Landry (denis_landry

Kathy’s Conspiracy Theory: Computer technology is an adult conspiracy designed to force children to learn to read. Kathy Sutusky (ksutusky@

Moman’s Minute: Don’t throw out outdated technology until the last, aged teacher retires. Herman Moman (hmoman@

Lee Ann’s Advice: Don’t even try to teach the term “due date” to middle school students. Somewhere in their 11-year-old brain it computes to “IF I find it, and IF I’m finished with it, I MIGHT bring it back, but don’t hold your breath.” Lee Ann Parrish (lparrish@

Laura’s Litany: It’s called research because you have to search for the answers. They will not leap off the page or screen and announce themselves to you. (lauragud

Paraphrasing the late Gamble Rogers: It is better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. and Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you really wanted. Anne Berkey (anneb@

Carol’s Relationship Advice: Never date anyone who needs a mother or a therapist. Carol McClain (mcclains13@ (Doug’s Corollary: Never hire anyone who needs a mother or therapist either.)

Getting it done: There is always another way of getting the problem solved - sometimes that way works too. Pat Brown (pbrown@

Crocker’s Rule of Reading Assignments: If you spend as much time reading the book as complaining about the assignment, you’d be at least half-way through the book. Judy Crocker (drummer@

Teachers’ Rule of Lamination: If it is not nailed down, laminate it. Yes, this too is part of our job! Ruth (Bun242

Wolf’s Observation about Books: Flashy binding, insipid content. J. Wolf (jerome.wolf

Cindy’s Observation on “Always”: Even though the server has ‘been down’ less than 4 hours total in its three years of service … when it is down someone complains that “The server is ALWAYS down!” (usually the server is down when grades are due). Cindy Lafferty (clafferty@

The Middle School Rule: Something’s wrong if a day goes by without a middle school student asking this question: Has somebody turned in a book? (what they mean is the book they’ve lost) Mary Faye Randolph (maryfaye.randolph@

Maryann’s Law of Living with the Ineffective Among Us: The complete inability of some individuals to GET THINGS DONE is the most effective way for them to secure their roles as concept thinkers. Maryann (mkempthorn@

The First Law of High School Circulation: The first student who checks out a new, expensive, and potentially very useful book will immediately move to an undisclosed address (perhaps entering the Federal Witness Protection Program), taking the book with him/her. Efforts to retrieve it will be fruitless. Madeline (m.warner

Jennifer’s Observations:

  • I can show you all day long, but the only way to learn the new program is to USE the new program!
  • You can have the greatest technology plan in the world but without knowledgeable tech support with the same vision it’s toilet paper!
  • One’s’s ability does not always elude to intelligence. I teach dyslexic kids. Jennifer Kelly (morrigan_the_celt @

Carol’s Observation: No matter what the object, if it has a power cord, someone will expect you to fix it. Carol Schwartz (lc.carol.schwartz

Sue’s observation: EAT LUNCH each day!! No one else in the school will give up their lunch period for you. Don’t give up yours for someone else, no one will notice. Suzanne Wargo (swargo

Friedman’s Law of Hospital Libraries: The only safe space for a hospital library is the space with no windows. Once you’ve moved there, no one will ever take it away from you. Jennifer Friedman

Tom’s First Problem-solving Question: Has it ever worked properly before?

Tom’s Second Problem-solving Question: When did it last work properly? Tom Kendrick (tkendr01

Al’s First Law Of Book Popularity: The number one requested title will be one COMPLETELY inappropriate for a middle school library to own. Also requested titles number two and three! - Alan Fedder (pershing123

Al’s Second Law Of Book Popularity: The book pictured on the book fair poster will be one the library doesn’t own. - Alan Fedder (pershing123

Klein Little Law: There will always be a patron whose request you cannot fulfill. And this person will always show up when the principal is here. Mitch Klein (mhklein

Jan’s First Law of being New on the Staff: There will usually be a teacher/administrator/ staff member who will pledge that the former librarian let them take home a VCR for the summer. This will be the second test of your “People skills.” Jan Chemotti (jchemotti

Buchanan’s Rule of Upgrading: If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Madeline Buchanan (mlbuchanan1

Jennifer’s Rule: Non-readers usually go for BIG books. They’re more impressive to carry. (jlyons

Brenda’s Addition to Jennifer’s Rule: Non readers will always check out and drop the thickest books they can get their hands on. Brenda Phetteplace (bphette@

Brenda’s Speculation: Why don’t we just go ahead and let the lawyers and insurance agents run the schools since liability seems to be the top priority of the school administrators. Brenda Phetteplace (bphette@

Biblia, the Warrior Librarian’s Law: Nothing is impossible - however, many things are difficult. (abcredaro

Jo’s Observation: Strong men who can operate a table saw, and construct a cabinet from blue-prints sometimes blanch when confronted by a moving-picture box attached to a keyboard. Treat them gently, and they will weld the legs back on your library stools! Ona J. Bass (ojbff5

Vidor’s Observation: All children believe that the librarian has a secret stash of the “really good” books. Constance Vidor ( And many of them firmly believe the librarian has read EVERY book! - Doug

Footnote to Vidor’s Observation: All teachers think you have a hidden stash of “good” equipment. i.e. “Do you have a GOOD tape recorder?” Barbara Verbos (bverbos

Plunkett’s Rule On Why Computers Are Easier For Children To Learn Than Adults: Children don’t know they “can’t” do it…therefore, they can. Adults know darn good and well that they can’t do it…therefore, they can’t. Mark Plunkett (plunketm

Morris’ Law of Accessibility: When seeking to talk with someone when they are momentarily unavailable, IF you take the time to record a message or leave a note, they will appear before you can finish. If you do not take time to do this, they will not appear in the same time frame. Theodore Morris (tamorris

The Weber Baker Rule of Technology: All the computers are configured exactly the same…which means they’re all entirely different. (This rule applies equally well to TVs and VCRs!) Barbara Paciotti (paciottib

Strickland’s E-Mail Enigma: The longer the time lapsed since you checked your e-mail, the more likely you are to have a message which required immediate attention. Joe Strickland (MR_LEGO_JOE

Kemps’ Rule of the Inevitable: The piece of equipment that worked perfectly during setup, will always malfunction during your most important presentation. Colleen Kemps (ckemps

Hetzner’s Law of Professional Illumination: Media Specialists always project a good image. (Hetzner_M

Schimmels’ Law: If you regularly back up your server, it will *never* crash. But, if you never back it up, your server *will* crash. This is a guarantee! Meg Schimmels (mschimmels

Baltes Observation on Weeding: The most needed book is the most recently weeded book. Jenny Baltes (jenny_baltes

Hodge’s Rule in Response to Student Complaints: This is not a democracy, it’s a benevolent dictatorship…and not always all that benevolent.

Hodge’s Rule of Assisting Students: No matter how long one works on a computer with a student, the computer will malfunction the instant the librarian leaves the student’s side and returns to the reference desk. Sue Hodge (xntrik

Lisa’s Rule of On-line Catalog Searching for Elementary Students: Verbal explanations are worthless. Do it, make errors, and do it again until you get it right.

Lisa’s Law of Pre-School Story Hour: When all else fails, find a book with the word “tush” in it.

Lisa’s Second Law of Pre-School Story Hour: A “movie” (filmstrip) is an awe-inspiring experience.

Lisa’s Law of Popular Fads: Harry Potter, too, shall pass.

Lisa’s Rule of Saving Library Funds: Online book searching to save $5.00 is a lousy use of time, but somehow satifies the soul. Lisa (lisahandelman

West’s First Rule of Technology: If the computer is plugged into the cart, and the cart is plugged into the cart, the computer will not turn on. Becky West (bwest

Gierke’s First Law: Persistence is the most important quality a person can develop to be successful.

Gierke’s Second Law: All people born after 1978 came equipped with microchips in their brains; the rest of us are relying on vacuum tube technology.

Gierke’s Third Law: They will come IF you have something they want. The challenge to the library is to add value to information access. One such commodity would be instruction and training.

Gierke’s Fourth Law: The earlier students develop a skill, the more likely they will develop more sophisticated skills.

Gierke’s Observation I: The problem is not people with too little self esteem, it is dealing with those who possess too much self esteem with no basis for it.

Gierke’s Observation II: The job is what you make it. Carolyn Gierke (cgierke

With Apologies to Mark Twain (curmudgeon par excellence): First God made monkeys. That was for practice. Then he made educational consultants. Mark Williams (mark_williams Hey, I resemble that remark! - Doug

Jantzen’s Law of Disassembly: When disassembling something (computer, vcr, bicycle) the ease of removing the screws is equal to n-1. Where n equals the number of screws (there will be at least one screw you cannot remove or get at or is a weird kind of screw). Garry Jantzen (garryj

Oelke’s First Rule of Missing Files: Where DID you save it? Anne Oelke (CFLibrary

Penn’s Observations:

  • size of a book a child wants to check out is inversely proportional to the student’s reading level.
  • most attractive book in the library is the one that is in the other student’s hand.
  • children’s librarian could hold up a copy of War and Peace and say this is a good book. Half the second grade would then want to check it out. Matt Penn (matthew.penn

Pam’s Observation on Book Recommendation (In response to Penn’s observations) A children’s librarian can hold up a copy of just about anything and say, “this is a good book”; and 99% of the sixth grade class will NOT check it out. (Bookhart2

Bartnik’s First Rule of Technology: When installing software the phrase “PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE” Does NOT refer to a specific key with a nomenclature of “ANY”. Chris Bartnik (Chris_Bartnik

Kelly’s Law of Blame: Blaming someone is a waste of time. Once you figure out who dropped the glass, the glass is still broken. Worry about cleaning up the mess rather than looking to blame it on someone.

Kelly’s rule about fairness: Nothing is fair. Things are just as unfair in your favor as against. Don’t worry about fairness; worry about solving the problem. Mark Kelly (eastham98

Kujawinski’s Law of Inverse Educational Rewards: When evaluating staff using the same pay scale, those doing a good job will receive more responsibilities while those who consistently skrew-up will receive less. Daniel B. Kujawinski (dbmk

Marilyn’s Law of Work Ethics: Always be the best that you can be; do the best that you can do; and get more work for your efforts. Marilyn Johnson (MJohns

Ron’s Observation: Missing A.V. equipment defaults to a finite number of sites, (Round up the usual suspects.) Ron Weaver (wnor

Birney’s Codicil to Nature Abhors a Vacuum—the Law of Clutter Equilibrium: A generous parent will donate outdated computer hardware as soon as the lab has been cleaned. Jan Birney (stmark6614

Katrina’s Observation: The principal never checks out anything, except a video camera on the day of his daughter’s confirmation. Katrina Larkin (kdlark

Grigsby’s Observation: Those who don’t understand are not committed. Those who do should be. Susan Grigsby (sgrigsby

Brenda’s Conclusion: If you read as a child you read forever… (brtoschi

Judy’s Law of Priorities: It is more important for students to know how Shakespeare processes words than how Microsoft does. (jwhaley

Add YOUR Little Law today!

The author of this page reserves the right to edit or to not include submissions. Name and email address will be included with each submission address unless otherwise requested.

Maureen's question for all researchers: If you don't know what you are looking for, how will you know when you have found it? (See Big 6 #1) | Maureen Irwin

Viki's Observation: There is a fine line between obvious and oblivious. Viki

Neil's Law of Technical Improvements: there's always a quicker way

Corollary to this law: and some wretch will tell you, "Oh, you could have done that in 30 seconds" when you have just spent 2 hours sweating and cursing the computer.

Neil's Law of Computer Protection: never keep a mallet by your computer.

Neil's Observation on the Unholy Trinity: to children and animals add the rule "never work with technology". (Pity the primary teacher!) Neil Adam

The best rules have the fewest words. Leutenant Dan

addition to Plunkett's Rule: Children don't worry about "breaking-that is ruining something of monetary value" the computer, so they are willing to try new technology; adults worry they may have to pay to replace something they have broken. Also, whether you are a child or an adult has nothing to do with your age.| DeAnn, IM620 SCSU

"Remember, the more books you read, the taller you grow." Lewis Meyer (1913-1995), author and the greatest bookseller in Tulsa, OK, history, ended his book review show with this saying every Sunday morning when I was growing up. Joan Bennett

Lindi's Law of Presentations: Technology will break your heart. Be prepared. Lindi Wood

King's Rule of Progeniture: The parent who complains about inappropriate language in a library book will always be the one whose offspring demonstrates an impressive command of Anglo-Saxon in library lessons with no discernible provocation.

King's Rule of Incredulity: The student who has spent ten minutes chewing gum with their mouth open in front of you is the one who will loudly declaim "Who, me Miss? I'm not chewing!" in utter disbelief when told to put it in the bin.

King's Rule of Odd One Out: Despite every other book on the shelf sitting spine outwards, the one a student picks up, looks at and puts back is the only one which has to be shelved pages out. It's the law. Karen King